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«These Songs Tell About Our Life, You See»

Music, Identity and Gender in Finnish Romani Music

Kai Åberg

Based on intensive fieldwork among the Finnish Roma, the Kaale, between 1995 and 2015, this book explores their traditional songs. It presents an introduction to the subject of traditional Romani music and offers different interpretations of how the Roma themselves produce meaning for the songs. Performing the music is not a repetition of heritage – instead, the meanings of the songs are aimed at different contexts of everyday life in various musical practices. They not only maintain a community spirit, but also underline gender identity or create a boundary with the majority population.
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7. The Construction of Romani Community in Songs and Musical Concepts


7.  The Construction of the Romani Community in Songs and Musical Concepts

In order to understand the song tradition and its uses, it is necessary to place the songs in the cultural context informing the complex norms that regulate singing. In the preceding chapter, I considered how the songs and their verbal descriptions construct the past. On the other hand, the past alone does not explain the formation of songs or conceptions of them. The background also involves customs, practices and narratives characteristic of present-day Romani culture. The way in which people analyse and perceive matters, such as former and present musical life and their changes always expresses to some degree the cultural structures of meaning that I address more closely in the present chapter.

In the following, I discuss how and in what guise Romani culture and its various practices open up from songs and concepts of them. Among other considerations, I discuss the meanings of family and kin, gender and age structure for songs and narratives of song culture. It is necessary to consider kinship, because family and kin present themselves as central institutions for passing on and preserving the song tradition. In the discussions on the songs, many communal practices of customs, such as respect for older people and shame, often derive from the family and kin situation. It should be noted, however, that in my material not all cultural features associated with respect and shame (see Chapter 3.4) emerge in the way...

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